The international Congress on Bioethics to discuss cloning, abortion, euthanasia and homosexuality opens today to be held in Manila at the University of Santo Tomas, Dec 5-7. Vatican envoy Archbishop Elio Sgeccia, head of Pontifical Academy for Life will address the three-day summit, the first of its kind to be held in Asia. He will speak on "the foundation of the ethic of life." The meeting is being organized by the office of Bioethics of Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the University of Santo Tomas and Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life, which is composed of 50 experts in theology, philosophy and the sciences coming from all over the world who are all appointed by the Pope. The Academy meets at least once in a year. According to Fr Fausto Gomez, a Dominican theologian and social scientist and a number of the academy, the meeting will celebrate the 10th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (Gospel of Life), which was issued to commemorate Pope VI's controversial encyclical Humanae Vitae, which uphold Church's traditional teachings against contraception and abortion, arguing that the natural law always be defended. The papal documents reaffirm "the culture of life" against "the culture of death." "It will be the first Vatican meet on bioethics in the Christian perspective to be held in Asia," Gomez said. "The choice of Manila and the University of Santo Tomas only stresses the fact that the Philippines and the pontifical university are a beacon light for the Church's teaching in a region that is disregarding biotechnology's moral implications in the name of profit and progress," he said. The conference comes at a time when Asian countries like China, Singapore, Japan, Korea and Australia are opening the gates to advanced stem cell research, even as the West is busy debating its moral implications. In the Philippines, efforts by some lawmakers to pass more stringent population-control measures, like a bill limiting couples to two children, are being strongly opposed by the Catholic Church. The House committee on appropriations recently junked the reproductive health care bill.
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